TEHRAN -- Iran said Tuesday it arrested an armed cell working for the occupying regime of Israel’s Mossad spy agency that was planning to use a cache of weapons to provoke violence during protests in the country.
The intelligence ministry’s director-general for counterintelligence said members of the cell were captured on the country’s western border following elaborate surveillance work.
According to the official, a large haul of weaponry was seized, including pistols, grenades, rifles, shotguns and ammunition.
“Some of these are used to provoke clashes during protests,” the official said, adding the agents for the Zionist regime intended to use the weaponry during “urban riots and assassinations.”
The official additionally said the occupying regime of Israel attempted to carry out acts of sabotage during the country’s recent elections, but those attacks were thwarted.
The announcement of the arrest of the cell came after at least five people were killed in recent days amid protests over the water shortage affecting Iran’s Khuzestan province.
Iran has faced rolling blackouts for weeks now, in part over what authorities describe as a severe drought. Precipitation had decreased by almost 50 percent in the last year, leaving dams with dwindling water supplies.
The protests in Khuzestan come as Iran struggles through repeated surges of infections in the coronavirus pandemic.
Iran’s economy has also struggled under the most draconian U.S. sanctions ever since then-president Donald Trump’s 2018 decision to unilaterally withdraw America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
Western Iran has seen occasional fighting between Iranian forces and foreign-backed separatists as well as terrorists linked to the Daesh group.
On Friday, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said the grievances of people in Khuzestan are valid, but warned of efforts by the enemies to manipulate them for their malicious agendas.
“The people expressed their frustration, but no one can blame them, because the issue of water is not a small thing, especially in that hot climate of Khuzestan,” the Leader said, describing the problem as “one of the really painful worries”.
Ayatollah Khamenei said the governmental and non-governmental organizations have started work to address the issues in Khuzestan while urging the authorities to seriously follow the demands of the people.
The Leader, however, cautioned people against playing into the hands of trouble-makers.
“The enemy seeks to use everything against the revolution, the country and the interests of the people; therefore, care must be taken not to give it an excuse.”
On Saturday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh pointed to the martyrdom of a policeman during violence in the province, saying it clearly
showed elements tied to foreigners had infiltrated the ranks of protesters in an attempt to provoke fake clashes and ignite riots.
Head of the Department of Justice in the southern province of Fars also said on Monday that Iranian security forces had disbanded a takfiri group that sought to carry out simultaneous terrorist attacks in several provinces in cooperation with intelligence services of two European and regional countries.
Kazem Mousavi said 11 members of the group’s main nucleus were identified and arrested in Fars, while 25 others were detained in six eastern and western Iranian provinces in a joint operation by the intelligence ministry and security forces.
Last month, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps identified and dismantled three terrorist and counterrevolutionary teams in the country’s northwestern provinces of West Azarbaijan and Kordestan a few days before the presidential election.